The Problem of Modern Day Slavery

The Anti-Slavery program at Responsible Sourcing Network seeks to eradicate the practice of forced labor around the world. As defined by the United States Department of Labor, forced labor is “all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily.”” It can take many forms including human trafficking, child labor, and debt bondage. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that nearly 21 million people are victims of forced labor annually, predominately in low-skill industries that are often under-regulated and hidden from the public.

What RSN is Doing

RSN seeks long-term solutions to address the root causes of forced labor by:

  1. Raising awareness regarding forced labor with corporations
  2. Coordinating outreach efforts with investors on anti-slavery legislation
  3. Supporting the development of effective policy and legislation
  4. Engaging in international diplomacy efforts

As a member of the leadership committee for the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) Trafficking Working Group, RSN collaborates with investors to educate the business community on the issue of modern day slavery in supply chains and with current sporting events and steps to eliminate it.

What Investors Can Do

  1. Educate and engage companies on potential risks of forced labor embedded in their products, possible affiliation with forced labor or trafficking affiliated with their services, and unethical practices of labor brokers.
  2. Support publicly published investor statements and proposed legislation that denounce the practice of forced labor throughout various industries and suggest activities to address it.
  3. Encourage companies to support supply chain transparency and accountability solutions that can drive business away from raw materials harvested or mined with forced labor.

What Companies Can Do

  1. Establish far-reaching policies to address any affiliation a company may have with forced labor.
  2. Support anti-slavery policy and legislation.
  3. Educate employees on risks of forced labor in supply chains and business services and actions the company is taking to address it if discovered.
  4. Require that all suppliers are accountable for sourcing their products from locations free of forced labor.
  5. Support niche markets and alternative solutions to the problem of slavery by purchasing raw materials from ethical and forced labor-free environments.

What Consumers Can Do

  1. Keep informed on anti-slavery policy and legislation. Stay up to date on changes made to local and national legislation, and the impact of these regulations. Make your voice heard if there is an opportunity to give input or vote on a piece of legislation.
  2. Utilize tools like these that help to promote anti-slavery consumerism:
  3. When purchasing products, ask the shop owners or brands where the raw materials come from and if there are any procedures followed to ensure the product is not contributing to forced labor.

Latest on Human Rights Issues

California’s New Anti-Human Trafficking Law

California’s Transparency in Supply Chains Act (SB657) went into effect on January 1st, 2012. Retailers and Manufacturers with over $100 million in revenues will now have to disclose on their websites what they are doing to prevent slavery and trafficking in their supply chains all the way down to the dirt.

Companies will have to report if they are doing the following:

  • Engage in verification of product supply chains to evaluate and address risk of trafficking and slavery;
  • Conduct audits of suppliers for compliance with company standards regarding trafficking and slavery;
  • Require Direct Suppliers to certify that material incorporated into the product complies with laws regarding slavery and human trafficking where supplier does business;
  • Maintain internal accountability standards and procedures for those failing to meet the company’s standards;
  • Provide training on human trafficking and slavery, particularly with respect to mitigation risk within the supply chain of products.

Investors issued a guidance document for implementing the California law and going beyond to embrace an entire human rights framework.